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Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Christmas carols in Jane Austen's time

 We all like singing carols, don't we?  Well, all except the most confirmed Scrooges out there, and without the intervention of the miserable sinners of the Puritan persuasion.  Since personally I'm a quite cheerful sinner, I disapprove of such people but the period of the Commonwealth after the civil war did put a serious crimp in any fun to be had.  As the definition by Mencken  runs, a Puritan is someone who fears someone somewhere might be enjoying themselves.

Now any student of the Regency period is well aware that Christmas wasn't the big affair it became under the Victorians, who might be considered to have invented Christmas as we know it, but Advent was still a time for Christmas carols.  However, many of the carols we find so familiar today were unknown in Britain until translated out of the German, and those we would recognise might well have  been set to very unfamiliar tunes. 'Hark!  The herald angels sing' for example, which might be still being sung as 'Hark how all the welkin rings' was sung to 'Nassau' which was suggested by Wesley, and was also the tune used for 'Christ the Lord is Risen today'.  It does make sense that rural musicians liked to recycle tunes so they did not have to learn as many.  After all, very few churches had an organ, never mind an organist, and most hymns were played by those who were nominally musical in the general populace, who probably could not read a note of music and learned the tunes by rote to play on their eclectic selections of rustic instruments.

 It would not be until the late Regency and the end of the Georgian era that the usual suspects for 87:87:87 metre hymns were written, so no Cwm Rhonda, Hyfrodol or Blaenwern.  Thus 'Love Divine' which could be used as a carol in Advent, would be sung to either 'Bithynia' or Purcell's 'Fairest Isle' the latter being the most familiar to most congregations of the time. It's easy to find on YouTube and isn't as dire as some hymn tunes of the day.   'Joy to the world' was certainly not the carillion of joy to which we sing it today.  A lot of the tunes seem quite dirge-like to us nowadays!  I listen to the original tune of 'Joy to the world' and feel depressed.
I do love the tune of 'Marching to Zion' though, it's so very restoration you half expect it to be bawdy.

However, the folk of the Regency era had a lot more freedom than during the Commonwealth; before 1700 only the Psalms of David were permitted by the Anglican church, and one authorised Christmas hymn; 'While Shepherds watched their flocks by night'.  A supplement published in 1700 which included 'While Shepherds watched' and 15 other hymns, expanded the use of the psalms alone, though 'While Shepherds watched' is the only one of the sixteen that we still sing today. 
The tradition of carolling [a word originally meaning a dance]seems to have survived the exigencies of the Commonwealth, and the medieval carols survived to be documented and used. I turned to the Oxford Book of Carols as a starting point, and then researched around them.  The OCB is kind enough to have some information along with the oldest.  Whether those using Latin were purely sung by scholars at first I do not know but there is some suggestion that they were known in the populace and were perhaps given rough translations by individual vicars for their congregation. I made free translations going back to first principles of both 'Adeste Fideles' and 'Veni Immanuel' whose tunes are original.  I didn't get too carried away.  There are more than the 3 verses we usually sing to Adeste Fideles, and not just the extra one for Christmas day itself. My Latin is a little doggy around the edges but probably no more so than the average vicar or squire translating for their people.

Adeste Fideles

Approach, now, thou faithful,

Happily triumphant,

Approach and draw nigh unto Bethlehem

Come near to see Him,

King of all the angels

Approach that ye might worship (repeated twice of course)

Our Saviour Lord. 

God out of God,  and
Light out of light, now
Born of the womb of the virgin girl,
Truly God, and
Born man, not constructed,


Sing out your praises
Sing ye choirs of angels 
Sing ye his praises unto highest heaven
Hallelujah! unto God the highest


Veni Immanuel

Come forth, come forth, Emmanuel

Release thy captive Israel

Which waits in exile’s weary toils,

Until the Son of God the bondage foils.

Rejoice!  Rejoice! Emmanuel

Is born to you, Oh Israel.

Come forth, thou branch of Jesse’s tree

And from all foes your children free!

From Hell’s dark depths your people save

Lead them in triumph from the grave.

Rejoice! &ct
There are, extant, several translations of Veni Immanuel, and I'm most familiar with the one from the English Hymnal which I found when going back to the Latin to be seriously fanciful.  However this should give an idea to anyone wanting to make up their own local translation ....  

It may also be noted that some carols, like 'Tomorrow shall be my dancing day', a forerunner to 'Lord of the Dance', contained both Christmas and Easter components, and the appropriate verses were supposed to be sung at the appropriate times.

Traditional carols
Adam lay ybounden
Adeste Fideles
A virgin most pure [several tunes]
In dulci jubilo
I sing of a maiden that is makeless [makeless means unstained]
Lully lullay
Lullay my liking
Oh wassail oh wassail [many different versions, and often used for 'Thomassing', begging alms on St Thomas' day, 21st December]
Personant Hodie
Puer Nobis Nascitur
Sans day carol
Shepherds arise [Sussex]
The Boar's Head carol
The Cherry Tree carol  [almost as many versions as there are counties]
Tomorrow shall be my dancing day
Veni Emmanuel

More recent carols [W = by Wesley, IW = by Isaac Watts]
Behold the grace appears [for Christmas day]
Branch of Jesse's stem arise [W]
Hark! the glad sound, the saviour comes
Hark! the herald angels sing [W][for Christmas day]
Light of those whose dreary dwelling [W]
Love Divine, all loves excelling  [W]
Joy to the world [IW]
Marching to Zion [IW]
On Jordan's bank, the baptist's cry
Shepherds rejoice [IW]
The seven joys of Mary
While Shepherds Watched 
Ye simple men of hearts sincere [W]

The educated would also have known such French carols as 'Quelle est cette odour agreable' [sung to a tune adapted from Gay's 'Beggars' Opera', which is the tune we still know], 'Patapan' and 'Les Anges dans nos compagnes' but in general I think the populace would consider these most unpatriotic.  Indeed, I wrote of a riot in 'Marianne's Misanthrope', engendered by the introduction of such a carol by an insensitive vicar.

This may not be an exhaustive list, but they were all I could find. I hope you will enjoy them, and also enjoy finding the ones I used in both 'Marianne's Misanthrope' and the purely Christmas novel recently released, 'Anne's Achievement' here for kindle and here for paperback

Sunday, 27 November 2016

A Christmas story in time for Christmas

'Anne's Achievement' is available here for kindle and here for paperback  as well as etc.

Anne is expecting to have a last Christmas house party before she must earn her living as a governess, but Ophelia Sanderville, last seen in 'Ophelia's Opportunity' has other plans for her.  It is a  house party like any other, with some pleasant and some most offensive guests,  and several surprises not usually wished on those celebrating the Season of Goodwill. 

Thursday, 10 November 2016

The rewards of research, guest blog from Dawn Harris

Welcome to Regency mystery writer, Dawn Harris, who is my guest today.  Needless to say, her books are on my wishlist!  

                            THE REWARDS OF RESEARCH.

My favourite period in history is from 1789-1820, inspired by the works of Georgette Heyer, Jane Austen, Baroness Orczy (Scarlet Pimpernel), and Winston Graham (Poldark). So, naturally, that was the era in which I set my first book, a mystery thriller, and when I discovered the joys of research.
I started with newspapers published in 1793, eager to see how people lived through the French Revolution and the war with France. And what I read took my breath away.
It brought to life the very real fears of a French invasion, and that some émigrés fleeing from the revolution in France, were in fact spies. There was turmoil over the Corresponding Societies, who were campaigning for all working men to be given the vote, as the Government feared these societies were using this as a cover for starting a French style revolution in Britain.
Smuggling was a huge problem then too, and as this was going to play a big part in my story, I concentrated on researching that first. On the Isle of Wight, (where I set my book), there were so many inlets and beaches where contraband could be taken ashore, that the men whose job it was to catch the smugglers must have had a tough time of it. One of the first things I came across in my search for facts was a memorial tablet in Whippingham church, which read,

 'Sacred to the memory of Wm Arnold, Esq, late Collector of HM Customs in the Port of Cowes, Isle of Wight. A man who by his amiable as well as faithful discharge, justly entitled him to the warmest esteem and affection of all who were permanently or occasionally associated with him in business, society or domestic ties. The public, his friends and his family feel and deplore the loss sustained by his death on March 5, 1801, aged 55.'

I was aware that some officials took bribes from smugglers, but this memorial, and other details I discovered about William Arnold, suggested he had not done so. That made me eager to find out more about him, and his efforts to curb the activities of the large number of smugglers on the Island. And I finally struck gold in a second-hand book shop on the Island. I found a book on his life. Another breathtaking moment.
It told me how he came to be the Collector of Customs at Cowes in 1777, and in the following year was made deputy Postmaster for the Island too. Appointments that meant he was often the first to hear news from the outside world.  Some of the letters he wrote are included in the book, and help to show the kind of caring man he was.
I learnt too that he was the father of Thomas Arnold, the famous headmaster of Rugby school, and grandfather of Matthew Arnold, the poet.
The book made clear that William Arnold was a highly respected, well-liked, honest official, who believed in doing his duty. He had a number of men to assist him, including  Riding Officers and Boatmen, but what he didn’t have at Cowes was a Revenue cutter to help him and his men catch smugglers. The Commissioners of Customs in London repeatedly turned down his appeals for such a boat, and in the end he, and one of his brothers-in-law, used their own money to purchase a cutter.
 Sadly, disaster struck within a month, when the boat, the ’Swan,’ was lost in a terrible gale, when chasing smugglers. Worse still, it had not yet been insured. That was a dreadful blow for him, but it persuaded the Commissioners of Customs to replace the boat. The letters he wrote to his wife’s brother in New York, eloquently showed his feelings at the time.
In those days much of the population either helped the smugglers, or were happy for a keg of brandy to be left by a rear door. A labourer working on the land could earn more in one night’s smuggling than in a week on a farm.
Smugglers needed to be good seamen too, especially if they planned to land their contraband on the Back of the Island. This was one of the quietest areas, but the underwater ledges here caused many a ship to come to grief over the centuries. As they still can.
The wily ways smugglers used to avoid being caught said much for their ingenuity! Some  sunk their illegal goods off-shore and collected them later when the coast was clear. Others hauled the stuff up cliffs with ropes. Or hid goods in ditches, under barn floors, in hayricks, or buried them in sand on the beach. Getting contraband off the beaches to a safe spot could be difficult, but some used ponies, covering their hooves with sacking so that they wouldn’t leave a trail. While a false trail was left in the opposite direction by using a horseshoe stuck on the end of a stick. Smugglers also made excellent spies, for they knew how to keep their mouths shut.
      Finding that book was a great piece of luck and was definitely one of the rewards of research. 

I put William Arnold into my first book. I like to use real people in with my own characters as I think it strengthens the book and makes it more authentic. The fact that he wrote letters to his brother-in-law in New York is also woven into my plot, giving crucial, but (I hope) inconspicuous clues to the identity of the murderer. William Arnold plays a vital role in the story and particularly in the ‘race against time,’ ending.

Sources “At War with the Smugglers,” by Rear-Admiral D. Arnold-Forster C.M.G.
“Smuggling on Wight Island,” by R.F.W. Dowling.

Potted Biography: 
I was born in Gosport, Hampshire, but have lived in North Yorkshire most of my life. I had a lot of short stories published in women’s magazines before I tried books, and still write the occasional one.

My Drusilla Davanish mysteries are:
“Letter From a Dead Man.” available here
“The Fat Badger Society.” available here
And I’m working on a third.

I’ve also written a 1930s thriller, The Ebenezer Papers, and  two volumes of short stories, ,Dinosaur Island and .The Case of the Missing Bridegroom

All books available at as well, and other Amazon outlets. 

Sunday, 30 October 2016

Halloween story and holiday blog hop

I've been invited to take part in a holiday blog hop of Halloween stories, and though I intended to write a Regency one, it didn't happen, and instead I was influenced by a pop video called 'Daze' by the Poets of the Fall.  The blog hop more or less grew around the prevalence of scary clowns, and I do actually have a clown phobia.  However the guy in the video is both more and less than a clown ... check it out as well as the stories by the many excellent authors below. 

THIS   will take you to the other Halloween stories including one by Giselle Marks; for my efforts see below

Warning: this is very very dark.  About the darkest thing I've ever written. 

Lord of Fire

She was mortal, she was her own person and she had free will.  Her name was Elaine Rathbone, not Aine. No matter what he called her.
And then he smiled at her, and that smile was more frightening than any other man’s scowl.
“Not thinking of leaving me, my Aine?” he asked. “You know what happened last time.”
She shuddered.  Aodh was his name, born of the fire, and he had drawn strands of flame directly from his hall’s fire to whip her.  She still bore the marks.
“It’s Samhain,” she whimpered, and hated herself for whimpering.  “If I come out with you when you go hunting for pleasure, if I find a replacement…”
“If you leave another time, Aine, you will die,” said Aodh. “I find you too … entertaining … to want another lover.  But you may come on the hunt.”
She suppressed a shuddering sob.
That Halloween night … how many years ago had  it been? … when she had first met Aodh, at a party, she had thought herself the luckiest person in the world to have such a handsome and skilled lover.  It had only been when she had realised time had passed in his arms that she told him that she wanted to go home. She wanted to let her parents know that she was all right, and to return to college.  She told him, she could always come to him in the holidays.
That was when she discovered how jealous he was; and how violent he could be when irritated.  That beating had only been with his fists.  He shouted, as he always shouted,
“You are mine!  Mine alone!  You are my toy, and you are nothing to anyone else!” 
It had been when he had changed her name, though he had been calling her Aine for a while.  Her former, besotted, teenage self had not noticed.  But he forbade the use of her old name.  She was Aine, his toy, his slave, his pet. 
She had plotted to run away.  That first year, he had left her alone when he went hunting.  She had tried to find her way out, only to become lost in a labyrinth, magical and confusing, that surrounded the rath, the fairy hill, in which his halls were built. And he had found her, and marched her back to his bedroom, the hedges moving aside for him to take a straight path through the labyrinth, and then he had whipped her with fire.  Then thrown her upon her burned and agonised back to rape her.   Elaine Rathbone did not believe in magic, but Aine suffered from it, every day of her stolen life.
“You came to me willingly, and ate at my table, so I get to keep you, and you live and die by my whim,” he said.
A choice to risk death was still a choice.  Death could be no worse than this. She stared down at her hands.
“I would like to hunt,” she said.  “If I cannot go home, I need to learn the customs.”
“There’s a good girl,” he raised her chin and kissed her, almost tenderly.  Aine … Elaine … tried not to shudder at caresses that had once driven her wild with passion.

Aodh and his minions gathered for the hunt on Samhain, what most mortals called Halloween.  They needed no costumes, because their everyday garb, tawdry finery of the eighteenth century, was costume enough for most people.  Elaine remembered being impressed by the clothes, and by the jewelled Venetian masks they all wore, all ancient and doubtless valuable.  She was given one too, to wear with the cinch-waisted gown and its panniers, her hair dressed in an updo somewhere between Marie Antoinette and a rat’s nest, by the smaller, low-fae servants who did not get to go on the hunt.  They were servile, disgustingly so, but capable of magic, and had great strength, That she had discovered on the second Samhain, when she tried again to escape.  Too bizarre looking even for Halloween, the little creatures were not allowed to go on the hunt, and they were set to watch her, and their fear of Aodh was such that they pinched her cruelly and sat on her to keep her in her room. 
Now they chattered excitedly.
“The lord’s lady is one of us, now!” said one. “And at the end of this night, you will never be able to leave, you will be all fae, your mortality burned away!”  A small, blue being, with a huge head, and eyes all liquid navy blue, with no whites to them, informed her.
“Hush!” a more senior maid said.  She was as brown as a berry, and heart-stoppingly lovely on her left side, but wrinkled and ugly on the right, her features twisted, leering on that side.  She had more magic power than many, and some said she was Aodh’s base-born daughter on one of the low-fae.  It was only a whispered rumour; it was not done for the high-fae to lie with their servant race, but Aodh was a man of complex and not always salubrious sexual tastes.  Elaine had seen him kiss a servant girl and then have her tortured for not giving enough evidence of enjoyment.  He had then had her tortured again for simulating too much enjoyment when he did it the next time.  Aodh had taken Elaine with enthusiasm, while he watched the torture, both times. 
“I have to accept my fate,” said Elaine.
“We is glad to have you, lady.  When he has you, he doesn’t hurt us as much,” said the little blue one. “He dares not hurt you too bad; mortals break too easily.”
“But after this night?”
“You will heal as well as any of us!” squeaked the little one, and was cuffed by her superior.
“You talk too much, Gormbhinn,” she snapped.
“You are immune, Grainne, even he does not break that taboo,” squeaked Gormbhinn.
“I will tell him,” threatened Grainne.
Gormbhinn whimpered.
“Never mind that, make sure I am beautiful enough to please,” said Elaine.  If she got away … or died … it was a shame that the mostly gentle little servants would suffer, but they had magic, and if they had but stood together, they would be able to overthrow Aodh.  Yet they seemed, mostly, to accept it. 
She wished she could take Gormbhinn, who had been kind to her.

The wild hunt under Aodh turned up, as they had when Elaine had first met them, at a country house where they gate-crashed a party.  Elaine gate-crashed with them, and pirouetted and laughed and flirted her fan.  Aodh of course was impressing all the young women at the party, and after an hour or so was busy indulging in a flirtation with the daughter of the house. She was a pretty, rather silly-seeming girl, and Elaine wondered whether Aodh would choose her as his replacement consort.  Poor girl, but Elaine must think of herself.   Elaine slipped out, heading for the garage.  Sure enough, many cars had been left with their keys in the ignition; a lot of these county types were careless about such things on what they saw as ‘home territory’.  She picked a Porsche, and set off, driving in what she hoped was the direction of a larger town than the village near the mansion.
She laughed in relief, discarding her mask, as she drove, this was technology, something beyond the ken of the fae.
And then she saw that the petrol gauge was running down, the petrol going quite visibly.  Surely it was not such a gas-guzzler?  No.  He could not be removing the petrol could he?  The tank must be holed.
The tank must be holed, and she was leaving a stream of petrol behind her.  And Aodh was the Lord of Fire.
There was a flickering behind her in the mirror, visible above the hedges where it reflected on wet leaves of overhanging trees.
With a whinny of terror, Elaine stood on the brake, and wrenched open the side door, flinging herself across the country lane into the ditch.
The line of flame ran hungrily to the rear of the car, and the night exploded in white flame.  Elaine thought she could hear Aodh laughing as she almost blacked out.
He must not find her. 
She had already kicked off the impractical high heeled satin shoes which were part of her costume, in order to drive, and hardly heeded the brambles and nettles tearing at and stinging her bare feet as she scrambled out of the ditch and ran along the road, searching for someone, anyone.  She leaped out and waved frantically as headlights came towards her.  The car screeched to a halt.
“Have you any idea how stupid that was?” Yelped a male voice. Then, more panicked, “Here, Ruth, help, the lassie is hurt.”
And then there was blessed oblivion.

Elaine woke up in the white sterile atmosphere of a hospital.   Her parents were sat at the end of the bed.
“Oh darling!” her mother cried, seeing her daughter awake.  “Where have you been all these years?”
“I … he kidnapped me,” said Elaine.  “But he thought it was safe to take me to the party … thought I was cowed …”
“Stockholm syndrome,” a white coated man said quietly.  “Elaine, do you remember the things he did?   Those … burns on your back…”
“He whipped me with fire,” she whimpered.
“We believe it was some kind of homemade electrical device,” said the doctor.  “You can tell the police about it when you are a bit better rested, but if he took you to the party at Marston Manor, I think your tormentor might be dead; it burned down, and everyone who was in it died in the blaze.”
“Those poor people…” Elaine started to sob, gently.  “But he didn’t get that poor silly girl.  Better burned than his toy ….”

It was never quite the same, because Elaine had lost seven years of her life; and she could never, ever tell her parents, or the police, exactly what had happened.  They would never believe her.  She spoke of a man who thought he was the king of the goblins, and dressed like David Bowie in Labyrinth;  and her vagueness was put down to a voluntary amnesia to block trauma.  Her parents did not push her to unblock the memories.  She did wonder why the house had burned, and whether Aodh had perished as well, and whether he could hurt her again. She became reclusive, brooding, and throwing herself into the degree she had been taking when she had been seduced by Aodh.
And then, one day, she shrieked in fear as Gormbhinn appeared in her room.  Her parents were out, and Elaine cowered.
Gormbhinn ran to her and hugged her.
“Lady Aine killed him!” she exulted.
“I … I just ran away,” said Elaine.  “And my name is Elaine, not Aine.”
Gormbhinn regarded her solemnly.
“Elaine.  It’s pretty,” she said.  “But that’s what killed him.  He sent fire after you, to burn the rest of your mortality and make you a spirit-slave.  But you wasn’t burned, and at dawn, your immortal part grounded back through him and he burst into flame.  You killed him and we is free.  Gormbhinn would like to serve her lady,” she added.
“Oh, I so wanted to take you with me, but I dared not,” said Elaine.
Gormbhinn nodded.
“Gormbhinn understands.  We does things to stay safe.  Gormbhinn … I … hoped that you would understand my words and escape.  Because if you stayed free until dawn, I knew it would be all over.”
Elaine embraced Gormbhinn, and cried a flood that she had never quite dared to let out before.
Fae magic would mean that her parents never even saw the little creature, and they would have each other, two who knew, understood and had survived.
And Elaine would never, ever go to any Halloween party ever again.


Thursday, 20 October 2016

Emma's Education with Grace's Gift is live

‘Emma’s Education’ and ‘Grace’s Gift’ are two romantic interlinked stories in the Charity School series. Spoilt Emma Spink is sent away to school in the hopes she will learn to behave.  But the school is harsher than her father intended, and she begs Marianne, now Mrs. Tempest, to put in a word for her at the Swanley Court school as a paying pupil. Her schooling is not without adventure, especially after she befriends Emmie Kovacs. For Emmie has a wicked uncle and a rather handsome older half-brother.

When young Cecil Hasely falls through the door of his father’s London house with a baby in his arms, a wet nurse is needed quickly. Grace Burrel, a war widow, agrees to tend the child following the stillbirth of her son. She swiftly becomes one of the family, helping to nurse the now chronically sick Cecil, and acting as hostess to Chris’s intended bride.  The growing happiness of a damaged family is threatened by ill-intentioned people. Meanwhile, Chris has been dancing attendance on his intended in Bath, where some lively young boys cause disruption on a royal scale.

Kindle available HerePaperback should be out momentarily

Friday, 19 August 2016

Great new Regency - The Fencing Master's Daughter by Giselle Marks

I've had the privilege to watch Giselle grow as an author, and to have the editing of this, her first book, and enjoy the improvements that she has made to it since its first inception.  It's a fun read and my husband agrees, so it's one of those Regencies that a bloke can enjoy, even as many men enjoy reading Georgette Heyer. 

So what is it about? 

Edward, Earl of Chalcombe, has recently inherited his title, and is about to take up the reins of his duties, following the double blow of his brother's death and a wound he took, fighting Bonaparte. 
He does not expect to be set on by footpads who seem to be more interested in causing him harm than in merely robbing him.  His life is saved by the cheerful and ugly Henri, and by Madelaine, who is an expert swordswoman.  They see Edward home, call Bow Street and then leave hurriedly.    Edward is left facing two mysteries; why did someone want to kill him, and who is the beautiful Madelaine, whose acquaintance he wishes to pursue further.
As he finds out more about Madelaine, he is frustrated in his desire to marry her by her steadfast refusal, which confuses him more than a little as he is certain that she is attracted to him.
More attempts on Edward's life occur, and clues are uncovered a few at a time, leading to the time when Madelaine tells all to Edward, and they discover how intimately their lives are linked through  an inimical foe.
Just as Edward believes that things might be going right, a cruel twist of fate separates him from Madelaine, and he must search desperately to find her again.
Although Gelert, the devoted mongrel wolf-hound  is hurt in defence of his beloved mistress, he survives, I hasten to add. 

This is a rip-roaring yarn in the best tradition of Heyer, with adventure and romance, and a good spicing of humour.  I thoroughly recommend it.
Out in paperback and available within the next day on Kindle HERE

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Fire Insurance as Jane Austen would have known it.

Insurance in the 18th and early 19th century

London had always feared fires and had legislation in place to try to minimise risk, which had begun with a statute in the thirteenth century forbidding thatched roofs in the city.  However, after the devastating great fire of 1666, the potential loss to individuals as well as the danger to the populace was something which led to the institution of fire insurance companies.

The Guildhall Library, the local records office to the city of London, contains records of the earliest policies.[1]

The Hand-in-Hand Fire and Life Insurance, established 1696
The Sun Fire Office, established 1710, later the Sun Insurance Office
The Royal Exchange Assurance, established 1720

[Details of policies may be found at  for anyone interested in more detailed research.]

Initially London based, some insurance offices quickly spread to offer policies in the provinces.  The Hand-in-Hand and the Westminster Fire Office remained exclusively in London, but the Sun, Royal Exchange and Phoenix [records of this last held at Cambridge University Library] spread to other parts of the realm, working through local agents.  Initially they were to be found predominantly in the south, but by the 1780s might be found in every major town throughout England, Scotland and Wales.

When an insurance policy was taken out, a plaque was issued to be attached to the wall of the insured property.  This was called the fire-mark, and ensured that those displaying it would have a fire engine sent from the insurance company involved.  There were no publicly maintained emergency services, of course!  But the insurance companies preferred to save buildings than to pay out for those destroyed by being burned down. 

Some fire marks to be found in Ipswich Transport Museum, including one from a Norwich company

This one still extant on the wall in Ipswich in St Nicholas St

The first effective fire-engine was invented in 1732 by Richard Newsham, who is credited with the re-discovery of the force-pump, to permit a continuous flow of water. [2]  This principal had been known to the Romans but had been lost.   The fire engine depicted was built by Newsham for Dudley North, of Little Glemham Hall, and is on permanent loan to the Ipswich Transport Museum by the current owner, Lady Blanche Cobbold.  It was restored to working order by Fireman Brian Madder. 

Needless to say, if a building did not have an insurance mark on the wall, the fire-engine would not bother to save their property!  However, if a property next door was threatened which did bear the fire-mark, they might work to stop the fire spreading. In theory a reward was paid by the parish for the first engine on the scene, but theory and practice do not always go hand in hand ….

The amount paid for insurance varied with the hazardous nature of the building and the goods therein.   A brick house with slate or tile roof would pay a basic rate, somewhere between 7/- and 10/- per annum, with extras if it were timber framed.  Other hazards might be in the nature of goods held in a shop, such as timber, distilleries, apothecaries, chemists, colourmen, chandlers selling candles, tallow, pitch or other inflamables, oil merchants or purveyors of alcohol [wine merchants or inns].  One might pay another 3/- , or 5/ for double hazard, ie a timberframed building with a hazardous trade carried on within it, these sums also per £100 value, per annum.  Often there was a higher rate for properties worth more than £1000 in value, and an even higher one for those worth over £2000.

 Naturally, preventing fire was a priority, and the head of the household was responsible for seeing that all fires were out or covered, and candles snuffed before retiring for the night. The advice, if trapped upstairs and unable to clamber onto another roof, was to tie sheets and blankets together, attached to a chair, and to open a window only part way, to hold the chair securely, and climb down, “they should by all means endeavor to be cool, and not be too much alarmed—fear overcomes reason, and will prevent studying your safety.”[3]

One company still in operation today is the Royal And Sun Assurance company, which was formed when Sun Alliance and Royal Insurance merged in 1996.  The oldest of these companies, the Sun Fire Office, merged with the Alliance British and Foreign Life and Fire Assurance Company.  This was formed in 1824 by Nathan Mayer Rothschild and Moses Montefiore, with the intent of rivalling Lloyds.[4]  [The London Assurance and Phoenix were also purchased by this group in 1965 and 1984; The Royal Insurance was not founded until 1845.]

Lloyds Insurance is a subject in itself and one I will address in a separate blog.

[2] Ipswich Transport Museum notes
[3] Susannah Ives quoting Trusler, 1809, details on the policies of several insurance companies.

Friday, 17 June 2016

The Botanical Gardens, Paris, 1815

The next few posts will be celebrating the release of the fourth Brandon Scandal 'The Wandering Widow' with a few gratuitious pictures to illustrate the notes from the back of the book.
this is the pergola on a hill that Leo speculated might have been a mound of rubbish that couldn't be got rid of it, so they made a garden feature of it

The Botanical Gardens in the 5th Arrondissment were set up under the direction of Louis XIII for the study of medicinal plants by doctors.  The gardens are large and cover many types of plants.  The director of the gardens in 1815, Jean-Baptiste de Monet, Chevalier de Lamarck is the founder of the theory of inheritance of acquired traits on which Charles Darwin built his theory of evolution; indeed, Lamark can be said to be the father of the theory of evolution.  He survived the revolution by changing the name of the gardens from Jardin du Roi to Jardin Des Plantes.  A previous administrator and naturalist, George-Louis Declerc, Comte de Buffon, is commemorated by the pergola on the hill of the labyrinth which the characters visited.  

Plan of the gardens.  Our heroes were staying on the Rue Geoffroy St-Hilaire

A French fashion plate.  The pergola here isn't raised on an eminence, but I wonder if the artist was inspired by the Jardin Botanique? 
and here we find Leo and Letty in a Paris which still has narrow streets with medieval buildings, before the redesign of the city in 1848 after the year of revolutions

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Some musings on what the year without a summer [1816] meant to most people

It's the 9th of June, and this morning started cold, murky and miserable.
Now, I  know one looks at childhood through rose coloured spectacles, but I have no recollection, apart from the odd day here or there, of June being chilly enough to need a hot water bottle at night from time to time, as I have this year.
Moreover, on the sunny days this year, I've hung out washing on the line in the morning, and by five in the early evening .... it's still not dry.
Now, I'm not comparing this to the June of 1816 which was really unseasonable, owing to the eruption of Mt Tambora in 1815,  but it's been inconvenient enough to make me think about the travails of the common man in 1816, being common as dirt myself in 2016, and having to think twice about using the tumble drier because of the horrendous cost of electricity.   And at that, I have the advantage of owning a tumble drier, which Mrs. Villager of 1816 did not.   And if the washing did not get dry spread on the bushes on the village green, the common way of drying clothes then, before the invention of the clothes peg, either you didn't wash the clothes, or you wore them damp.  Drying them in front of a fire would mean having to light a fire that was hot enough and burned long enough to dry the clothes; and that meant buying fuel.  A similar dilemma to me and the tumble drier, except that  Mrs. Villager didn't have the option of running into an overdraft as so many of us can do these days.  Cash on the nail was the rule then, unless you were aristocracy.  And if Mr. Villager was engaged in the usual rural activities like raising crops and livestock, well, he was in deep financial trouble.  Crops were killed in the fields by the late May frosts, and the grass was poor for livestock.  There was a serious problem of rickets in lambs, many of which had to be culled because they were unhealthy.  Rickets is caused by a lack of vitamin D, ie, sunlight.  Possibly Master Villager himself had rickets and was unable to help his father in the fields. 
So there's precious little food, no income to speak of, the clothes can't be washed because they won't dry, and will give anyone wearing them a chill or rheumatism [and with sore throats engendered by such chills, the possibility of rheumatic fever, life threatening at worst, or at best leaving a heart murmur].  Washing personally is not fun in the cold, believe me, we had an unheated bathroom for enough years for hot running water to be luke warm by the time the bath was filled in midwinter, and washing was very much a lick and a promise, even with a fire downstairs to sit in front of!  so, we have Mr and Mrs Villager likely to decide that washing was a bad idea.
Unfortunately if Mr and Mrs Villager had used the fire on which they cooked to heat an iron to iron the seams of their unwashed clothing, they would have been able to kill the body lice which lurked there, leaping from person to person as they huddled together for warmth and spreading Typhus, also known as gaol fever.  It was called gaol fever because in gaols, people were in close proximity and rarely washed.  It happened to the army on the Peninsula as well.

So, Mr and Mrs Villager, hungry all the time, and therefore more susceptible to disease, cold all the time, and so more susceptible to disease, stressed out like mad over how they are going to pay the bills without any money for selling produce, and therefore more susceptible to disease, are almost inevitably going to succumb when Typhus strikes.

I address this issue in my Jane Austen 'Emma' sequel, 'Cousin Prudence' [to be found Here, on amazon or Here on amazon uk] as well as describing the dry fogs, and red appearance of the sun for much of the time.  Since there was a theory that the fogs were caused by the mass guns firing during the French wars, especially Waterloo, I shouldn't be surprised if many people wondered if this seemingly dying sun indicated the apocalypse. 

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Speed of Travel in Jane Austen's England

I’m going to expand upon an earlier blog post, as I’ve been looking at very fast horses, to look at the speed of travel in late 18th and early 19th century England.

I originally wrote this because I was a little irritated at reading books in which the heroine left London in the morning and had tea in Devon.  Presumably she shoehorned a V-8 into her carriage and the horses were just for show. 

However, in order to address travel times, I need to speak a little bit about the roads, because the speed of travel may depend a lot on the state of the roads, which improved markedly over the 18th century and on to the end of the Georgian era.

The pike roads, which were maintained by tolls taken at toll booths or turnpikes [hence pike roads], started to come into use with the turnpike trusts in 1707, the major growth in this being between about 1750 and 1772.  It is fair to say that by 1772 the speed of travel to most places had increased significantly owing to metalled roads which had the potholes and wheel ruts filled in regularly.  There was further improvement between 1815 and 1826 when the roads were improved and expanded in number under Thomas Telford. Telford’s design of roads with a heavy stone foundation covered with gravel and broken stone, cambered to shed water, was known as ‘Telford pitching,’  making the surface safer and less likely to be slick.  Following from Telford’s improvements, John Macadam, [who loaned his name a century in 1902 later to tar Macadam, later just ‘tarmac’].  Macadam’s idea was that angular small stones bound together without needing stonework beneath them.  The weight of traffic would force the stones to bind, so long as they were all smaller than the 4” width of many wheels.  Note: tar or pitch was NOT used on a macadamed road in this period.  The Macadam method started to be used after 1819.
So, we see an improvement in roads.  How does that relate to speed of horses?

We have a number of facts.

1/ carriages in London on paved roads generally went at 4 mph.  Walking pace, in other words.  Why so slow?  I would postulate that it is for the same reason that taxicabs still go at walking pace in London; heavy traffic.  Also, paving slabs and cobbles rapidly become slick and slippery with such usual detritus as emptied out water [and other liquids] in a city which still had no proper drainage system, also dropped vegetables from stalls,  the waste matter of hundreds of horses who did what they needed when and where they needed to, and so on.

2/ The  Mail Coach was a marvel to manage an average of 8mph.  The Mail Coach changed horses frequently and did not stop to do more than change horses and get fresh drivers; if you had to get off for a comfort break, you might not have finished in the Jericho before the Mail had gone without you. This includes the toll gates; the blowing of the ‘yard of tin’ ensured that the keepers had the gates open in a hurry for the Mail to go straight through. The Royal Mails did not pay toll.  
Although 8mph does not sound much, this was day and night [incredibly the Mail continued to run even on appalling roads in the worst of weather, without more than carriage lights at the same average speed unless there were serious snow drifts]  and moreover whatever the topography.  Up hill, down dale, 8mph with a heavy coach.  It could do London to York in 25 hours, an incredible speed.  The mail doesn’t do that well nowadays.   

3/ Look at a map of Surrey; googlemaps will find you Leatherhead quite easily. Leatherhead is a very thinly disguised Highbury in Jane Austen's 'Emma'.  It is stated clearly as being 16 miles from London, a journey of some 2 hours. It’s reasonable to suppose that Jane Austen, who did a lot of travelling, had a fair idea how long a journey took.  We have again a figure of 8mph.  I shall return to this.

4/ London to Brighton in 4 hours was a record time.   According to Patterson’s ‘Roads’, an extant travel guide, London to Brighton is 51½ miles.  So the average speed here is about 12½ mph.
This was a run which was either on the flat or downhill, and was achieved by sporting gentlemen who had lightweight curricles and the sort of horses you didn’t see change out of 300 guineas a pair to purchase.  They would have been trained to be short-steppers, that is they took rapid steps with an economy of movement, less showy than the gait of the high-steppers favoured by many for tooling around town, but more efficient.  The fastest sporting horses could manage about 15 miles an hour for short bursts,  but of course doing that in a sustained fashion was not feasible.  I assume that the London to Brighton dash was achieved without changing teams, so these horses had stamina as well as speed.

Which brings us to horses, which are of varied quality, as well as their gait being important.  The best carriage horses were probably the Cleveland Bays, renowned for both speed and stamina.  A broken-down hire horse is not going to manage more than a plod, a high-bred short-stepper will manage more than most people of the era realise is possible.   And of course, how many horses are harnessed to a vehicle, and the weight of the vehicle makes a significant difference; two horses on a curricle with one up might do London to Brighton in four hours, but harnessed to a carriage with a family inside with luggage and they’d be lucky to get half way in the same time.  The Mail had 6 horses, but it was a big and cumbersome vehicle.  Equally, a sporting gent with a curricle might manage Highbury to London  in a little over an hour, much of which is negotiating the traffic in London, as was the time spent by John and Isabella Knightley when they travelled.  

So on to the average travel time of the average carriage.  It is not unreasonable to take the speed Jane Austen cites of about 8mph.  However this is with a coach adequately pulled by the right number of horses for its size; and it also assumes stops to change horses every 2-4 hours, or rest them, and for the passengers to get down for comfort stops or to eat.  Most people do not enjoy being bounced about like peas in a frying pan  as they must have been in the Mail on straight sections, to make up time for the less easy sections.   Let us take the journey to York from London, accomplished by the Mail in 25 hours; a journey of a little under 200 miles.  Depending on the quality of the horses, whether your own were at various posting stations, the weather, the delicacy of constitution of the traveller and whether he could stomach being bounced around at speed, might affect the average.  And taking 8 mph as a good working average, we know that this means 25 hours total on the road, give or take.  It was very rare for any traveller to be on the road for more than 8 hours at a time, so we are looking at 3 days travel.  Travelling all day, every day, feeling every bump, every irregularity.  Held up by argumentative toll-keepers perhaps, or other road users trying to cheat the tolls, or needing 30 head of cattle to be counted…
Although springs had improved out of all recognition since the 1750s, it was still a rather hard transmission.  And believe me, I’d not like to be 8 hours a day for three days in a Land Rover which has the nearest comparable transmission in today’s vehicles.  But people did it.  And were glad to fall into bed in their wayside inns overnight. 

I would postulate that before the improvements of the pike roads, an average of 6 mph might be taken, or on out of the way roads, 4mph or less.   However, I have little data to work on, and I’m going largely on the relative time of driving a 4x4 offroad as compared to on a rudimentary surface.

For toll charges see my earlier article HERE